We have just drawn to a close with our summer children’s ministry activities and now fall is about to begin with a full line up of Sunday School classes, Kids Choir, Mid-week Power Club Kids, and Sunday Children’s Church. Fortunately, for the most part, we are ready. Yes, there are a few personnel setbacks. It happens almost every year, so I have learned to expect the unexpected. I am going to be leading all of these programs with the exception of Kids Choir. Whew. If I had been asked to take over Kids Choir to replace the outgoing long-time director it would not have happened. Thankfully, a parent has stepped up and will do a terrific job.
Aside from leading the necessary church-based kids programming, my greater priority is to begin and sustain an ongoing conversation with parents of young children in the church so that we may consider together this business of nurturing our families in the faith within the normal everyday rhythms of our lives. In part, this has caused me to spend time with the Sunday School teaching team which leads the young married class. Networking with them has helped me to expressed my heart and thinking to key influencers, but more importantly, it has also given me a window into their hearts and minds.
I told a friend last night on the phone that it is ironic that someone like me should be initiating a conversation about spiritual formation within homes and local communities, especially since I obviously am not a parent, husband or even a member of a family within my own household. When I first started my DMin work I had no idea it would lead me this direction. Yet, I committed myself to following the research wherever it might lead so that I may address a very real ministry problem in the local church which has broader implications for local churches and families around the world.
In essence, I perceive many families to be overworked, over-scheduled, living beyond their means (not necessarily just finances, but also time, energy, priorities, commitments, etc), and frustrated with an apparent inability to do anything about it. Often this frustration is unspoken because the need is not articulated. And so they hustle about to and fro doing things they deem necessary to sustain their lifestyles and by the time they have a chance to sit down to spend a meaningful moment with a spouse or child, it is time to prepare for bed so that the next day can repeat the cycle. In the midst of that cycle, community and family redemptive spiritual formation is either hindered or lost. This is the general major problem of ministry which I have identified.
If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend to you two books by Randy Frazee. He wrote “The Connecting Church” and “Making Room for Life.” He is quick to point out in both books that his recommendations might not be for everyone at this point in their lives. However, he adds that if the readers at least take initial steps toward regaining control of their lives, they would be much better off and on their way to a more fulfilling family experience.
My aim, as I become more conversant with families in my church, is not to suggest one more thing for them to add to their overbooked schedules. Rather, I desire to be a part of coaching them toward reevaluating the realities of their lives and helping them discern meaningful redemptive touchpoints which remind them of God’s work in them throughout the day in their normal routines. This could well lead to a more intentional devotional focus, which most families find nearly impossible to sustain due to the abovementioned priority conflicts. I have already developed a few key resources which families could use with their children as devotional reminders throughout the day. They specifically correspond to waking time, day time, travel time and bed time, after the outline of Dueteronomy 6:5-9. I have held off introducing them because I probably will have a few sets of parents review them to see if they are meaningful for their families. Hopefully the resources will be helpful, but I expect parents to have suggestions for change, since they deal with the realities of child-rearing on a daily basis.
Having said all that, what are you doing in your church to help families foster spiritual formation in their lives on a daily basis? What works? What doesn’t work? I am especially interested in hearing from actual parents. I have much to learn, so feel free to sound off!